Over 25 House and Senate members met Monday (March 18) at the State Capitol to form the legislature’s first Aerospace and Aviation Caucus.
“We are excited about forming this caucus and the impact it will have on public policy in the coming future and also in the aerospace industry as a whole,” said Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R-Little Rock), Caucus Co-Chair and a pilot. “This industry is critical to Arkansas as it’s the second largest industry in the state. It produced, in 2012 alone, more than $1.8 billion in U.S. exports, which is the largest export that came out of Arkansas. There are 9,000 jobs in Arkansas due exclusively to the aerospace industry, and there are over 90 private and public airports located throughout Arkansas.”
The caucus said it will aim to educate legislators and highlight the aerospace, aviation and defense industries and their economic impact on Arkansas. The group also wants lawmakers to better understand the burdens and obstacles companies confront and how to make flying safer and more accessible.
“Our aerospace and aviation industry is one of the best keep secrets in the state,” said Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Joe Jett (D-Success), a pilot who has served on the Arkansas Aeronautics Commission for the past five years. Jett said that general aviation has 5,000 pilots across the state and that Arkansas generates $2 billion annually through commercial and general aviation. “As a caucus, we are looking forward to helping promote aerospace and the aeronautical community.”
The caucus was also joined by industry representatives from the Little Rock Airport, Custom Aircraft Cabinets in Sherwood, Preferred Global Logistics (PGL), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
In addition to helping recruit more aviation and aerospace businesses to Arkansas, caucus members said they will lay groundwork for evaluating the industry and expect legislative action during the 2015 regular session.
The caucus said it will explore funding for an economic impact study on Arkansas’ aerospace, aviation and defense industries.